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Mobile Check-In/Digital Boarding Passes: Do They Work?

© Delta Air Lines
In the mid-1990s, airlines introduced paperless tickets, which allowed you to show up at the airport with an ID or a reservation number and board a flight. Now, they're taking the next step by rolling out a paperless boarding pass option, also known as eBoarding passes.

The idea is simple: Just like paperless tickets, the paperless boarding pass promises to get you through security and past the gate without having to print anything. That not only reduces your carbon footprint, but it can also speed up the check-in process, leaving you feeling calm, focused, relaxed ─ and ready to do business.

But what good is a real-time, paperless process unless there's real-time assistance to go with it? Fortunately, airlines are offering real-time help for passengers through social media, including dedicated Twitter handles like @DeltaAssist, which is staffed around the clock by a dedicated team of customer service representatives at Delta Air Lines' corporate headquarters in Atlanta.

Taken together, these new technologies can help you breeze through the check-in process at every step.

Before you leave. One day before your flight, you'll get an email notifying you that your flight is ready for check-in. It's the first piece in the paperless trail, and taking advantage of it will eliminate your need to visit the check-in counter or kiosk when you arrive at the airport. For example, Delta will email your electronic boarding pass if you request it during the check-in process.

At the TSA screening area. If you don't have any luggage to check, you can make a beeline for the screening area. You'll pull up your boarding pass email, and TSA agents will be able to check it as if it's a paper pass. (Don't worry, they won't try to mark it up, like they do a paper boarding pass.)

At the gate. The paperless pass works in much the same way when you board your flight. Instead of scanning a piece of paper, an agent will ask for your smartphone. That allows you to board your flight without having to fumble around in your roll-aboard for a piece of paper ─ and, if you don't find it, having to wait in yet another line to get a boarding pass.

Tips for using a digital boarding pass

- Make sure your smartphone has a full charge before you leave for the airport. If your PDA runs out of juice at the TSA screening area or at the gate, you'll have to ask for a paper boarding pass.

- Consider downloading your airline's smartphone app. The Fly Delta app, for instance, lets you request an electronic boarding pass, change your seats, look up your flight status, rebook your flight and track your baggage.

If you run into any questions along the way, just ask. A shout-out to @DeltaAssist on Twitter will yield a lightning-fast response ─ often in less than 24 hours ─ so you never have to wait long for an answer. And if you have a follow-up question, don't worry. Since Twitter is the equivalent of a digital conversation, you can ask away and be assured of a personalized response.